After closing my rings every day for over 200 days, I stuck my Apple Watch in a drawer for a week, to see if I’d be happier without it running my life.

I’ve been wearing it again for a few days now, and… I think I’m keeping it.

It’s occurred to me lately how new things—let’s focus on technologies for now—come into our lives, and quickly become part of the fabric. How hard it is to imagine life without a smartphone, even though I somehow lived the first 25 years of my life in a world where they didn’t exist…

That’s part of it, though: they didn’t exist. Is it easier to live without something when there’s no expectation you’ll have it?

I’m curious about this. And I’m tempted to stick my phone in a drawer, but I may have to start with a day instead of a week1.

Back to the watch: why did I want to take a break from it in the first place?

  • I got the Apple Watch as a gift in April 2018. I’ve worn it pretty much every day, for the entire time I’m awake, since then.
  • I’ve gotten in the habit of closing the three rings on the Watch every day. For reference, that means:
    • Burn at least 450 “active” calories.
    • Exercise for at least 30 minutes, where “exercise” is based on movement and heart rate.
    • Stand up and move around for a few minutes in each of twelve hours.
  • I occasionally felt resentment to this “need” to close my rings.
    • And, alongside that, this distasteful feeling like physical activity didn’t “count” if I didn’t have the watch on to acknowledge it.
  • The watch uses haptic feedback2 to tell you when you get notifications on your phone. You can of course control many aspects of when and how you receive these.
    • I would sometimes find the notifications annoying, in particular when someone sent a lot of text messages in quick succession, and the watch would rapidly tap me on the wrist six times within a few seconds.

What did I hope to gain from not wearing the watch?

  • Feeling like I could be physically active without the half-conscious tension that it had to be measured and logged.
  • Eliminate the need—the addiction—to not break the streak of closing my rings. There’s an argument to be made that the desire to keep a streak going is an important tool in forming good habits, and that’s fine… but the downside is feeling like you’re a servant of the mechanism, instead of the other way around.
  • Being less distracted by notifications as I go about my day.
  • From a fashion standpoint, not feeling like I always had to have the thing strapped to my wrist.
    • Sometimes I’d rather have nothing on my wrist.
    • I sometimes think about getting other, non-smart watches as accessory pieces, but then I’d have to spend part of the day without the Apple Watch measuring my activity…

Part of the reason for the experiment was the desire to take something out of my life to see if I really wanted it, or, thinking it’s a sensible default to not have an extra “thing” unless it really adds value to your life.

What did I find during the week with no watch?

  • I believe—without having measured—that I was still at the same level of activity. The desire to get outside and take a walk every day is still there, even when I’m not measuring it.
  • I found a negative side-effect of not having notifications on my wrist is that I would check my phone more often, because maybe someone sent me a text message. When I wore the watch, I didn’t feel as much urge to do this, because I knew if someone messaged me I’d see it on my wrist.

Why didn’t I sell the watch or throw it in the lake?

I’m pretty sure I do want to keep the watch. I enjoy the convenience of being able to do various things (set timers, control the playback of music/podcasts on my phone) from my wrist, I have not yet been bothered or found myself overly distracted by the notifications (and I can always selectively turn them off), and I have been enjoying the little burst of satisfaction that comes from logging a walk and closing my rings.

Ultimately, I think the watch is adding value.

What changes do I want to make?

  • I would like to feel less obsessive with closing my rings every day without fail. I would like to feel less like I need to constantly wear the watch while I’m awake. Perhaps I would like to put it on when I exercise, or for certain parts of the day, but I would like to feel okay with just not wearing it sometimes.
    • Actually, that’s the real takeaway: I want to feel comfortable with not always wearing the watch.
  • Regarding fashion, I am inclined to buy some nicer straps (I just have the default black rubber/plastic one that came with the watch) to make it more of a fashion accessory. Combined with being more comfortable not wearing the watch, this lets me be more versatile with fashion, which makes me happy.

I want to do experiments like this more often. Instead of assuming that the way I do things is the way they must remain, change things up on a regular basis and see what happens. Again, this requires a willingness to break “streaks” without totally giving up the habits that the streaks help maintain. I think I’ll be happier over time with this sort of regular reflection and experimentation.

If you do similar little lifestyle experiments, I’d be happy to hear about them.

  1. In fact, I’m going to set a reminder to do that tomorrow. Let’s see how we go. 

  2. i.e. It vibrates in a way that feels like it’s tapping you on the wrist.